The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Claimed the Lives of More Than 184,000 Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Residents and Workers
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, introduced legislation to update federal nursing home policy to improve quality of care and oversight after the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic took the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents and workers in nursing homes.
“Loved ones never should have to worry about the safety of their family members who are living in long term care facilities – especially during a pandemic,” said Bennet. “But we know that due existing gaps in public health preparedness and other shortcomings, nursing home residents and staff were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve learned about multiple cases of abuse, failures, and other mishandlings by long term care facilities across the country that go back years prior to this public health crisis. That’s why I’m glad to join my colleagues in introducing this critical legislation that will improve oversight of these facilities, address staffing issues, and provide residents, families, and staff with the transparency they deserve.”
The Nursing Home Improvement and Accountability Act takes significant steps to modernize nursing homes by filling much-needed gaps in staffing, transparency, accountability, oversight, and the structure and culture of facilities. These steps will improve care for residents and ensure nursing homes are better prepared to face future public health emergencies.
The bill would require nursing homes to meet minimum staffing standards, ensure a Registered Nurse is available 24 hours a day, require a full-time infection control and prevention specialist, and provide additional resources through Medicaid to support these care and staffing improvements and raise wages. The bill also takes a number of steps to increase transparency and accountability by improving data collection, providing better information to residents and their families, and enhancing the effectiveness of state surveys.
The legislation comes as the world continues to fight the pandemic and account for the extremely high prevalence of COVID-19 deaths in America’s nursing homes. In Colorado, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that from June 2020 to January 2021 all nursing homes in Colorado had an outbreak lasting at least a week, with 86.9% of nursing homes in Colorado having outbreaks longer than 5 weeks. Almost one in three COVID-19 deaths in the United States were connected to nursing homes. Meanwhile, a report from the HHS Office of the Inspector General found that 71% of the nation’s 15,295 nursing homes have not been surveyed on safety and quality of care since the pandemic began. A report from the GAO found that only 25% of facilities met staffing thresholds the federal government has said are needed to avoid quality problems. The bill directs the federal government to create a minimum requirement of staff per residents at a given facility.
In addition to Bennet, this legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).